The denial of interim bail to the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami by the Bombay high court on Thursday afternoon was rather surprising. The division bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik will now hear both sides before passing an appropriate order. Though facts in no two cases are the same, in the past, apex court judges are known to have granted relief to people with far more serious charges at midnight.
The facts of the case of alleged abetment to suicide in 2018, the circumstances under which police reopened the closed case overnight, when it was crystal clear that the TV anchor was being hounded at the behest of the ruling coalition, with multiple FIRs filed against him, the manner of his early morning arrest, all had vendetta with a capital V written over them. As Goswami’s senior counsel Harish Salve told the court, “Will heavens fall in Maharashtra if he is released on interim bail? When liberties of a citizen are involved, procedures sometimes have to be dealt with…”
The bench, in its wisdom, would grant Goswami no respite. He was put under judicial custody late on Wednesday night by an Alibaug court. In all honesty, it is the police which should be in the dock, and not Goswami. If the case was closed earlier, with the express consent of the complainant, it does not wash that the police did so at the behest of the previous BJP-led government. Supposing that was true, in that case, is it not fair to argue that the police has now reopened the case at the behest of the Shiv Sena-led government which is hounding the journalist.
There may well be valid grounds for the ruling coalition to feel mighty angry with Goswami’s journalism, but that does not justify the state-sponsored vendetta. A number of forums are available, including judicial, for the Aghadi leaders to seek redressal. Setting the state police after Goswami is not one of them. Besides, is there anyone in politics generally, and in the ruling coalition in Maharashtra in particular, who can claim to be pure as the driven snow?
Let us be clear. It is a coalition of the corrupt, with leaders without any known source of income all their lives declaring assets over Rs 100 crore and those in their twenties boasting tens of crores of rupees worth of personal assets. Even Tejashwi Yadav, and his father Lalu Yadav, who is doing time in jail on conviction in a fodder scam case, cannot boast of a fraction of such enormous wealth. Not that corruption is an issue with the voters. But people will react adversely if politicians with unclean hands behave in a hypocritical manner, going after anyone who remotely questions them, or raises doubts about their integrity. Thin-skin and politics are not compatible anywhere, more so in India, where even an arduous search fails to locate a clean politician, notwithstanding false avowals to the contrary.
That senior BJP ministers came out in support of Goswami underlines his marked tilt towards the party. But, then, there are channels which are clearly anti-BJP. Politicians have to learn to live with all of them. Culture of intimidation, bullying, arm-twisting, extortion, blackmail, etc., might have been endemic to a major component of the Aghadi, but when on a larger platform, such low-grade tactics are bound to prove counter-productive. Leave Goswami alone. Let him stew in his own rotten journalism.
Biden slowly inching towards victory
We commented in this space on Thursday about the tortuously slow vote-count in the US presidential election. At the time of writing on Thursday evening, the process was still on, though the clear loser, Donald Trump, had further complicated matters by knocking at the door of the judiciary. This could further delay the official outcome. However, we stick to our original assessment that Joe Biden is on course to win the presidency. This ought to be welcome in the wider democratic world.
Autocrats like Vladimir Putin would be unhappy with the Trump loss. Biden, not a very inspiring leader, still holds promise of undoing some of the damage the buffoonish Trump had done in the last four years, both at home and abroad. Another four years of Trump would have only further destabilised the global order and made it harder for his successor to restore sanity into world affairs.
With an aggressive China out to disrupt peace and security all over, it will now be Biden’s test to blunt China’s challenge without plunging the world into a wider conflagration. Rebuilding America, its global image, restoring its role as the foremost guarantor of peace and security across the world, defending democracies against mounting Chinese belligerence and ambitions, should all be on the agenda of the new administration. India has good reason to feel confident that it can build on its ties with the US under the new administration.